Unions will seek new rights to part-time work , family leave and extra unpaid maternity leave for millions of employees in an ACTU Test Case next year.

The ACTU Executive meeting in Melbourne today will finalise the Work and Family Test Case application to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the Test Case would provide new choices to help people balance their work and family responsibilities with more flexible hours, extended leave opportunities and greater job security.

“Australia has an increasing proportion of families where both parents are working. The proportion of sole parents in the workforce is also growing. Two million Australians are working more than 50 hours per week, with one million of them averaging more than 60 hours per week.

“Many parents would prefer to spend more time at home with their children especially in the early years of life, without losing contact with the workforce. It is often difficult for employees to fit their childcare and school commitments in with working arrangements.

“The ACTU’s Work and Family Test Case will help end the career disadvantage experienced by many women and will make it easier for people to be both good employees and good parents,” Ms Burrow said.

The case would change industrial awards to:

  • give full-time employees returning from parental leave a right to part-time
  • give employees the right to request more flexible hours;
  • give employees the right to emergency family leave;
  • allow employees to “buy” up to 6 weeks extra leave through
    salary adjustment;
  • extend the current UNPAID parental leave period from 12 months to 24
  • Bureau of Statistics figures show that the proportion of couples with children where both parents work has increased from 44% in 1981 to 62% in 2000 while the proportion of single mothers in paid work has increased to one-half, up from one-third in 1985.